X Ambassadors Shoot For The Stars With New Album ‘ORION’

If you’re unfamiliar with X Ambassadors, we recommend you make your acquaintance pronto with the trio from Ithaca, New York. Their new long player, ‘ORION’, is only the second studio album from the band on the KIDinaKORNER/Interscope label, but it’s already making an impact with the single releases, ‘Boom’, ‘Hey Child’, and ‘Hold You Down’, as well as the recent track, ‘Confidence’, featuring K.Flay.

Named for the constellation Orion, and in turn the hunter in Greek mythology, the album will appeal to fans of The Lumineers, with its storytelling lyrics and soft sweet vocals.

We can’t help wondering if  there’s a connection between the album being named after a Greek hunter, and the band coming from a town named after a Greek island. ‘ORION’ is eleven tracks long, and feels very autobiographical, so perhaps there is significance there.

The songs will flow over you, with lead singer Sam Harris’s voice a pleasant distraction from life’s troubles. Album opener, ‘Hey Child’, has a jaunty rhythm and a quirky whistling intro, but it belies the seriousness of the lyrics, which tell a story about two friends whose paths diverged, with the protagonist settling down and raising a family, while his friend followed a life of crime. This is followed by the rousing ‘Confidence’ (to be fair, the entire album is rousing), which features a guest vocal by up and coming artist K.Flay. It’s a love song, with Harris’s falsetto vocals on the chorus perfectly contrasting K.Flay’s lighter tones. We can see this song featuring on future episodes of TV talent shows; it’s easy on the ear, and while lyrically it’s not particularly challenging, it’s fun.

‘ORION’ has an overall gospel/Delta Blues feel, and songs such as ‘Hey Child’, and track three, ‘Quicksand’, call to mind for us the film, ‘Brother Where Art Thou’. It’s not even the style of the songs that makes us feel this, but rather the autobiographical feel of the songs.

The standout track on the album has to be, in our minds at least, the magnificent ‘BOOM’. The bass at the start, and the lyrics,

My feet go boom boom boom
Boom boom boom, boom boom boom
My heart beats boom boom boom
Boom boom boom, boom boom boom
High speed, go zoom zoom zoom
Zoom zoom zoom, zoom zoom zoom
My feet go boom boom boom
Walkin’ away from you

It’s a song about walking away from toxic relationships, with lead singer Sam Harris speaking from personal experience:

“I’ve had to break off a few of them recently myself, and I was writing all these sad songs because of it. I needed to write one to give me confidence again. To turn my pain into my power.”

So so catchy. The artwork for ‘BOOM’ stands a mention, as it features the word, BOOM, written in Braille. It’s the first physical manifestation, of the band’s work, beyond the songs themselves, that keyboardist Casey Harris – blind from birth – has been able to view.

It’s very easy to get lost in the music on ‘ORION’, with Sam Harris adjusting his vocals for each song. ‘Rule’ sees him maintaining a falsetto throughout, with the instrumentation primarily keyboard-led. By contrast, ‘History’ feels very singer-songwriter, with Sam accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the faintest suggestion of percussion.

Track 7, ‘Recover’ sees the return of the gospel vibes, with an additional rock rhythm, and here we’re reminded of Canadian pop rockers, Marianas Trench, while ‘Wasteland’ takes us on a bass and guitar trip through the Lincoln Tunnel.

There’s some very strong lyrical imagery right across the album, such as

Drinkin’ on my back porch, dreamin’ we’ll get out
Scuffin’ up my white Vans, sneak out of your house
Just a couple kids, tryna figure it all out

in ‘Shadows’. We’ve got lost listening, which we always feel is a good sign.

‘I Don’t Know How To Pray’ reminds us once again of the vocals of Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench. Passionately, Sam pulls out all the stops in his entreaty to God to save his brother’s life, and to teach him to forgive; and you wonder what on earth has happened to drive him to this. As he sings,

‘And God said -‘

The singing ends abruptly, replaced by a spoken word section betwee (presumably) Sam and an unknown person, discussing about how life goes full circle. It was a nice shock to get back into the album, especially after the reverie of ‘Shadows’.

Final track, ‘Hold You Down’, takes the album out with a bang. Bold and brash, they throw everything they’ve got into the track both lyrically and sonically, which Sam dedicates to his brother Casey, and is a tribute to the strength of their fraternal bond.

‘ORION’ by X-Ambassadors, is out today. Stream and download it here.

X Ambassadors - HOLD YOU DOWN (Official Video)

About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email lisa@essentiallypop.com

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